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posted: 2/20/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: YMCA merger a sensible solution

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Many suburban leaders learned long ago that if you link up with your neighbor, you can buy anything from ambulances to water towers to copy paper more cheaply.

The Hoffman Estates Park District joined forces with the City of Elgin and the Streamwood Park District last year to open up Freedom Run, a dog park, in Hoffman Estates. It's not likely each body could have afforded one on its own.

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And some smaller municipalities have even toyed with the idea of creating a regional police force that would make it easier to keep cops on the street -- easier when fewer would be sitting behind desks.

Creating economies of scale is something the private sector has always done in response to flagging sales or a sputtering economy. And our suburban governments are following suit with greater intensity.

So it should come as no surprise that the YMCA is doing so as well.

In a story in Tuesday's editions, staff writer Eric Peterson wrote about how the Campanelli YMCA in Schaumburg has taken over management of the four branches of the Elgin-based Prairie Valley Family YMCA, and described this as a precursor to a full merger in the next couple of years. Prairie Valley Y includes the Taylor Family Branch in Elgin, locations in Gilberts and St. Charles, and Camp Edwards in East Troy, Wis.

YMCA of the USA, the parent organization, has been moving to link up smaller Y's in an effort to streamline layers of management and put a greater emphasis on funding programs. Programs that provide after-school, recreational and other opportunities for people who otherwise couldn't afford them.

It's rarely easy to make this type of change, but in this case, it's critical to the Y's core mission.

There are advantages to local control and the ability of locally managed entities to react more quickly to specific local needs, so we remind the Y, as leadership looks at other suburban operations, not to make these decisions lightly. There must be room in any further mergers to respond to local needs.

It's clear the parent organization is taking this into account.

Brad McDermott, a spokesman for YMCA of the USA, said resource sharing is encouraged, no matter the size of the local operation, but mergers may not be in the cards for everyone. Sometimes, simply sharing supplies and office space will be the best course of action.

"In recent years, we've seen about five mergers a year," McDermott said. "Large Y's have done it, too. It's a local decision and it may not be the right course for every Y."

Gary Bublitz, who heads the Campanelli Y, told supporters Monday that he doesn't expect the number of employees would -- or could -- shrink dramatically, apart from upper management.

"At this point, we're hoping that the only changes will be positive," he said.

We hope so, too.

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